BlanŠid McKinney

Life
1961- ; b. England, grew up in Enniskillen, Co. Tyrone, dg. of dentists; ed. QUB, politics; undertook PhD on women in the linen industry; laid foundations of women’s studies courses at QUB but left degree unfinished; acted as tutor; entered civil service in London; Dept. of Trade and Industry, working on competition policy and resale price maintenance; moved to Aberdeenshire, where her sister was living; settled in Macduff for seven years, working as economic dev. officer; wrote Big Mouth (2000); possessed 2,000 movie-videos; sent stories to David Marcus, scouting for Giles Gordon at Curtis Brown; hor of fiction; Big Mouth (2000), stories; The Ledge (2002), a novel; .

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Works
Big Mouth (London: Phoenix House 2000), 211pp.; The Ledge (London: Phoenix House 2002), 249pp. [review by Derek Hand, The Irish Times [Weekend], 30 March 2002]. Contrib. ‘These Important Messages’, in Caroline Walsh, ed., Arrows in Flight: Stories from a New Ireland (Dublin: TownHouse; UK & US: Scribner 2002), pp.37-72.

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Commentary
Aisling Foster, review of Big Mouth (Phoenix), in Times Literary Supplement (2 June 2000), recounts how an IRA informer in the title-story, now in Australia, listens for the accent that will reveal his pursuers have arrived and muses on languages. In “The Gold of Tolosa”, an introverted council official finds an old lady dead on her stairs, apparent ‘dead of good manners’; in “About Letters About Love, Mostly”, depressed young man finds body in canal; also cites “the Klondyker and the Silver Darlings”, in which a lonely wife learns love from a Russian sailor, “Gunsel’s Hand”, in which a thug is crucified by a moralising gang-leader; reviewer remarks, ‘Through all this unhappiness, Blánaid McKinney weaves loose threads of hope. Words like “courage”, “love”, and “bravery” crop up constantly [...]’. Further, also: ‘too often, their halting voices get in the way, solipsistic, self pitying, made so hopeless by experience that one remains on the outside, impatient for the inevitable moment when they must crack up or die.’ Foster complains that the attempt to parellel native America diaspora and Irish famine diminishes both in final story. Finally, ‘against the precision of the nineteenth-century voices, the loose associations of McKinney’s language appear sadly wanting.’

Catherine Heaney, review of Big Mouth, in Irish Times, Weekend, 24 June 2000. Speaks of stories in which Tube driver’s wife has to deal with his anxiety after a suicide jumps under his train (”Sub-Aqua”); young father prepares to take his daughter of life-support system (”Please”); young businessman takes out his revenge on a car which killed his wife (”Transmission”); Heaney remarks, ‘There is little or no mercy in such stories, save for the bitter epiphanies of the central character and their Pyrrhic victories over the individual torment, but in McKinney’s sure hands it is the power of such moments rather than their horror or hopelessness that burns itself into the reader’s imagination.’ Also cites “Tie, Coat, Hat” and “Among the Gadje”, concluding: ‘[…] eleven stories … impressive sureness of touch.” Text and caption: ‘she is a master of the voice an dof languge, her writing sharp, layered and exquisitely controlled.’

Shirley Kelly, interview with Blanaid McKinney, in Books Ireland (May 2002) , gives biog. details [as supra]. In The Ledge (2002) John Kelso is contemplating suicide at the beginning of the novel, hence ‘the ledge’, having been has been kidnapped by a script-writer to edit his film-script and becomes its owner when the malefactor Kenny is arrested and imprisoned in an asylum; but Kenny is seeking vengeance. (BI, p.113-14.)

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References
Evelyn Conlon & Hans-Christian Oeser, eds., Cutting the Night in Two: Short Stories by Irish Women Writers (Dublin: New Island 2001) [incls. Blanaid McKinney, with Nora Hoult, Elizabeth Bowen, Mary Lavin, Clare Boylan, et al.].

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